Mucosal surfaces are lined by epithelial cells and provide an important barrier to the flux of antigens from the outside. This barrier is provided at a number of levels, including epithelial junctional complexes, mucus production, and mucosa-derived antimicrobials. Tissue metabolism is central to the maintenance of homeostasis in the mucosa. In the intestine, for example, baseline pO2 levels are uniquely low due to counter-current blood flow and the presence of large numbers of bacteria. As such, hypoxia and HIF signaling predominates normal intestinal metabolism and barrier regulation during both homeostasis and active inflammation. Contributing factors that elicit important adaptive responses within the mucosa include the transcriptional regulation of tight junction proteins, metabolic regulation of barrier components, and changes in autophagic flux. Here, we review recent literature around the topic of hypoxia and barrier function in health and during disease.
Louise E. Glover, J. Scott Lee, Sean P. Colgan
The role of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) in cancer is often correlated with poor prognosis, even though this statement should be interpreted with care, as the effects of macrophages primarily depend on their localization within the tumor. This versatile cell type orchestrates a broad spectrum of biological functions and exerts very complex and even opposing functions on cell death, immune stimulation or suppression, and angiogenesis, resulting in an overall pro- or antitumoral effect. We are only beginning to understand the environmental cues that contribute to transient retention of macrophages in a specific phenotype. It has become clear that hypoxia shapes and induces specific macrophage phenotypes that serve tumor malignancy, as hypoxia promotes immune evasion, angiogenesis, tumor cell survival, and metastatic dissemination. Additionally, TAMs in the hypoxic niches within the tumor are known to mediate resistance to several anticancer treatments and to promote cancer relapse. Thus, a careful characterization and understanding of this macrophage differentiation state is needed in order to efficiently tailor cancer therapy.
Anne-Theres Henze, Massimiliano Mazzone
The traditional view of genome organization has been upended in the last decade with the discovery of vast amounts of non–protein-coding transcription. After initial concerns that this “dark matter” of the genome was transcriptional noise, it is apparent that a subset of these noncoding RNAs are functional. Long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) genes resemble protein-coding genes in several key aspects, and they have myriad molecular functions across many cellular pathways and processes, including oncogenic signaling. The number of lncRNA genes has recently been greatly expanded by our group to triple the number of protein-coding genes; therefore, lncRNAs are likely to play a role in many biological processes. Based on their large number and expression specificity in a variety of cancers, lncRNAs are likely to serve as the basis for many clinical applications in oncology.
Joseph R. Evans, Felix Y. Feng, Arul M. Chinnaiyan
The number of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) has grown rapidly; however, our understanding of their function remains limited. Although cultured cells have facilitated investigations of lncRNA function at the molecular level, the use of animal models provides a rich context in which to investigate the phenotypic impact of these molecules. Promising initial studies using animal models demonstrated that lncRNAs influence a diverse number of phenotypes, ranging from subtle dysmorphia to viability. Here, we highlight the diversity of animal models and their unique advantages, discuss the use of animal models to profile lncRNA expression, evaluate experimental strategies to manipulate lncRNA function in vivo, and review the phenotypes attributable to lncRNAs. Despite a limited number of studies leveraging animal models, lncRNAs are already recognized as a notable class of molecules with important implications for health and disease.
Michael Feyder, Loyal A. Goff
Uncontrolled inflammation underpins a diverse range of diseases where effective therapy remains an unmet clinical need. Hypoxia is a prominent feature of the inflammatory microenvironment that regulates key transcription factors including HIF and NF-κB in both innate and adaptive immune cells. In turn, altered activity of the pathways controlled by these factors can affect the course of inflammation through the regulation of immune cell development and function. In this review, we will discuss these pathways and the oxygen sensors that confer hypoxic sensitivity in immune cells. Furthermore, we will describe how hypoxia-dependent pathways contribute to immunity and discuss their potential as therapeutic targets in inflammatory and infectious disease.
Cormac T. Taylor, Glen Doherty, Padraic G. Fallon, Eoin P. Cummins
The term asthma encompasses a disease spectrum with mild to very severe disease phenotypes whose traditional common characteristic is reversible airflow limitation. Unlike milder disease, severe asthma is poorly controlled by the current standard of care. Ongoing studies using advanced molecular and immunological tools along with improved clinical classification show that severe asthma does not identify a specific patient phenotype, but rather includes patients with constant medical needs, whose pathobiologic and clinical characteristics vary widely. Accordingly, in recent clinical trials, therapies guided by specific patient characteristics have had better outcomes than previous therapies directed to any subject with a diagnosis of severe asthma. However, there are still significant gaps in our understanding of the full scope of this disease that hinder the development of effective treatments for all severe asthmatics. In this Review, we discuss our current state of knowledge regarding severe asthma, highlighting different molecular and immunological pathways that can be targeted for future therapeutic development.
Anuradha Ray, Mahesh Raundhal, Timothy B. Oriss, Prabir Ray, Sally E. Wenzel
A major subset of human cancers shows evidence for spontaneous adaptive immunity, which is reflected by the presence of infiltrating CD8+ T cells specific for tumor antigens within the tumor microenvironment. This observation has raised the question of which innate immune sensing pathway might detect the presence of cancer and lead to a natural adaptive antitumor immune response in the absence of exogenous infectious pathogens. Evidence for a critical functional role for type I IFNs led to interrogation of candidate innate immune sensing pathways that might be triggered by tumor presence and induce type I IFN production. Such analyses have revealed a major role for the stimulator of IFN genes pathway (STING pathway), which senses cytosolic tumor–derived DNA within the cytosol of tumor-infiltrating DCs. Activation of this pathway is correlated with IFN-β production and induction of antitumor T cells. Based on the biology of this natural immune response, pharmacologic agonists of the STING pathway are being developed to augment and optimize STING activation as a cancer therapy. Intratumoral administration of STING agonists results in remarkable therapeutic activity in mouse models, and STING agonists are being carried forward into phase I clinical testing.
Leticia Corrales, Sarah M. McWhirter, Thomas W. Dubensky Jr., Thomas F. Gajewski
Malaria remains a global public health threat, with half of the world’s population at risk. Despite numerous efforts in the past decade to develop new antimalarial drugs to surmount increasing resistance to common therapies, challenges remain in the expansion of the current antimalarial arsenal for the elimination of this disease. The requirement of prophylactic and radical cure activities for the next generation of antimalarial drugs demands that new research models be developed to support the investigation of the elusive liver stage of the malaria parasite. In this Review, we revisit current antimalarial therapies and discuss recent advances for in vitro and in vivo malaria research models of the liver stage and their importance in probing parasite biology and the discovery of novel drug candidates.
Rene Raphemot, Dora Posfai, Emily R. Derbyshire
Immune cell metabolism is dynamically regulated in parallel with the substantial changes in cellular function that accompany immune cell activation. While these changes in metabolism are important for facilitating the increased energetic and biosynthetic demands of activated cells, immune cell metabolism also has direct roles in controlling the functions of immune cells and shaping the immune response. A theme is emerging wherein nutrients, metabolic enzymes, and metabolites can act as an extension of the established immune signal transduction pathways, thereby adding an extra layer of complexity to the regulation of immunity. This Review will outline the metabolic configurations adopted by different immune cell subsets, describe the emerging roles for metabolic enzymes and metabolites in the control of immune cell function, and discuss the therapeutic implications of this emerging immune regulatory axis.
Nadine Assmann, David K. Finlay
RNA is likely to be the most rediscovered macromolecule in biology. Periodically, new non-canonical functions have been ascribed to RNA, such as the ability to act as a catalytic molecule or to work independently from its coding capacity. Recent annotations show that more than half of the transcriptome encodes for RNA molecules lacking coding activity. Here we illustrate how these transcripts affect skeletal muscle differentiation and related disorders. We discuss the most recent scientific discoveries that have led to the identification of the molecular circuitries that are controlled by RNA during the differentiation process and that, when deregulated, lead to pathogenic events. These findings will provide insights that can aid in the development of new therapeutic interventions for muscle diseases.
Monica Ballarino, Mariangela Morlando, Alessandro Fatica, Irene Bozzoni
Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) were discovered as extracellular strands of decondensed DNA in complex with histones and granule proteins, which were expelled from dying neutrophils to ensnare and kill microbes. NETs are formed during infection in vivo by mechanisms different from those originally described in vitro. Citrullination of histones by peptidyl arginine deiminase 4 (PAD4) is central for NET formation in vivo. NETs may spur formation of autoantibodies and may also serve as scaffolds for thrombosis, thereby providing a link among infection, autoimmunity, and thrombosis. In this review, we present the mechanisms by which NETs are formed and discuss the physiological and pathophysiological consequences of NET formation. We conclude that NETs may be of more importance in autoimmunity and thrombosis than in innate immune defense.
Ole E. Sørensen, Niels Borregaard
Mammalian chromosomes terminate in stretches of repetitive telomeric DNA that act as buffers to avoid loss of essential genetic information during end-replication. A multiprotein complex known as shelterin prevents recognition of telomeric sequences as sites of DNA damage. Telomere erosion contributes to human diseases ranging from BM failure to premature aging syndromes and cancer. The role of shelterin telomere protection is less understood. Mutations in genes encoding the shelterin proteins TRF1-interacting nuclear factor 2 (TIN2) and adrenocortical dysplasia homolog (ACD) were identified in dyskeratosis congenita, a syndrome characterized by somatic stem cell dysfunction in multiple organs leading to BM failure and other pleiotropic manifestations. Here, we introduce the biochemical features and in vivo effects of individual shelterin proteins, discuss shelterin functions in hematopoiesis, and review emerging knowledge implicating the shelterin complex in hematological disorders.
Morgan Jones, Kamlesh Bisht, Sharon A. Savage, Jayakrishnan Nandakumar, Catherine E. Keegan, Ivan Maillard
Although the use of antioxidants for the treatment of cancer and HIV/AIDS has been proposed for decades, new insights gained from redox research have suggested a very different scenario. These new data show that the major cellular antioxidant systems, the thioredoxin (Trx) and glutathione (GSH) systems, actually promote cancer growth and HIV infection, while suppressing an effective immune response. Mechanistically, these systems control both the redox- and NO-based pathways (nitroso-redox homeostasis), which subserve innate and cellular immune defenses. Dual inhibition of the Trx and GSH systems synergistically kills neoplastic cells in vitro and in mice and decreases resistance to anticancer therapy. Similarly, the population of HIV reservoir cells that constitutes the major barrier to a cure for AIDS is exquisitely redox sensitive and could be selectively targeted by Trx and GSH inhibitors. Trx and GSH inhibition may lead to a reprogramming of the immune response, tilting the balance between the immune system and cancer or HIV in favor of the former, allowing elimination of diseased cells. Thus, therapies based on silencing of the Trx and GSH pathways represent a promising approach for the cure of both cancer and AIDS and warrant further investigation.
Moran Benhar, Iart Luca Shytaj, Jonathan S. Stamler, Andrea Savarino
New biomarkers are needed to improve the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Similarly to healthy cells, prostate epithelial cancer cells produce extracellular vesicles (prostasomes) that can be isolated from seminal fluid, urine, and blood. Prostasomes contain ubiquitously expressed and prostate-specific membrane and cytosolic proteins, as well as RNA. Both quantitative and qualitative changes in protein, mRNA, long noncoding RNA, and microRNA composition of extracellular vesicles isolated from prostate cancer patients have been reported. In general, however, the identified extracellular vesicle–associated single-marker molecules or combinations of marker molecules require confirmation in large cohorts of patients to validate their specificity and sensitivity as prostate cancer markers. Complications include variable factors such as prostate manipulation and urine flux, as well as masking by ubiquitously expressed free molecules and extracellular vesicles from tissues other than the prostate. Herein, we propose that the most promising methods include comprehensive combinational screening for (mutant) RNA in prostasomes that are immunoisolated with antibodies targeting prostate-specific epitopes.
Carla Zijlstra, Willem Stoorvogel
Two broad categories of extracellular vesicles (EVs), exosomes and shed microvesicles (sMVs), which differ in size distribution as well as protein and RNA profiles, have been described. EVs are known to play key roles in cell-cell communication, acting proximally as well as systemically. This Review discusses the nature of EV subtypes, strategies for isolating EVs from both cell-culture media and body fluids, and procedures for quantifying EVs. We also discuss proteins selectively enriched in exosomes and sMVs that have the potential for use as markers to discriminate between EV subtypes, as well as various applications of EVs in clinical diagnosis.
Rong Xu, David W. Greening, Hong-Jian Zhu, Nobuhiro Takahashi, Richard J. Simpson
Almost all cell types release extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are derived either from multivesicular bodies or from the plasma membrane. EVs contain a subset of proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids from the cell from which they are derived. EV factors, particularly small RNAs such as miRNAs, likely play important roles in cell-to-cell communication both locally and systemically. Most of the functions associated with EVs are in the regulation of immune responses to pathogens and cancer, as well as in regulating autoimmunity. This Review will focus on the different modes of immune regulation, both direct and indirect, by EVs. The therapeutic utility of EVs for the regulation of immune responses will also be discussed.
Paul D. Robbins, Akaitz Dorronsoro, Cori N. Booker
Exosomes and other extracellular microvesicles (ExMVs) have important functions in intercellular communication and regulation. During the course of infection, these vesicles can convey pathogen molecules that serve as antigens or agonists of innate immune receptors to induce host defense and immunity, or that serve as regulators of host defense and mediators of immune evasion. These molecules may include proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and carbohydrates. Pathogen molecules may be disseminated by incorporation into vesicles that are created and shed by host cells, or they may be incorporated into vesicles shed from microbial cells. Involvement of ExMVs in the induction of immunity and host defense is widespread among many pathogens, whereas their involvement in immune evasion mechanisms is prominent among pathogens that establish chronic infection and is found in some that cause acute infection. Because of their immunogenicity and enrichment of pathogen molecules, exosomes may also have potential in vaccine preparations and as diagnostic markers. Additionally, the ability of exosomes to deliver molecules to recipient cells raises the possibility of their use for drug/therapy delivery. Thus, ExMVs play a major role in the pathogenesis of infection and provide exciting potential for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
Jeffrey S. Schorey, Clifford V. Harding
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Stroke recovery is orchestrated by a set of highly interactive processes that involve the neurovascular unit and neural stem cells. Emerging data suggest that exosomes play an important role in intercellular communication by transferring exosomal protein and RNA cargo between source and target cells in the brain. Here, we review these advances and their impact on promoting coupled brain remodeling processes after stroke. The use of exosomes for therapeutic applications in stroke is also highlighted.
Zheng Gang Zhang, Michael Chopp
Extracellular vesicles (EVs, including exosomes) are implicated in many aspects of nervous system development and function, including regulation of synaptic communication, synaptic strength, and nerve regeneration. They mediate the transfer of packets of information in the form of nonsecreted proteins and DNA/RNA protected within a membrane compartment. EVs are essential for the packaging and transport of many cell-fate proteins during development as well as many neurotoxic misfolded proteins during pathogenesis. This form of communication provides another dimension of cellular crosstalk, with the ability to assemble a “kit” of directional instructions made up of different molecular entities and address it to specific recipient cells. This multidimensional form of communication has special significance in the nervous system. How EVs help to orchestrate the wiring of the brain while allowing for plasticity associated with learning and memory and contribute to regeneration and degeneration are all under investigation. Because they carry specific disease-related RNAs and proteins, practical applications of EVs include potential uses as biomarkers and therapeutics. This Review describes our current understanding of EVs and serves as a springboard for future advances, which may reveal new important mechanisms by which EVs in coordinate brain and body function and dysfunction.
Valentina Zappulli, Kristina Pagh Friis, Zachary Fitzpatrick, Casey A. Maguire, Xandra O. Breakefield
Humans circulate quadrillions of exosomes at all times. Exosomes are a class of extracellular vesicles released by all cells, with a size range of 40–150 nm and a lipid bilayer membrane. Exosomes contain DNA, RNA, and proteins. Exosomes likely remove excess and/or unnecessary constituents from the cells, functioning like garbage bags, although their precise physiological role remains unknown. Additionally, exosomes may mediate specific cell-to-cell communication and activate signaling pathways in cells they fuse or interact with. Exosomes are detected in the tumor microenvironment, and emerging evidence suggests that they play a role in facilitating tumorigenesis by regulating angiogenesis, immunity, and metastasis. Circulating exosomes can be used as liquid biopsies and noninvasive biomarkers for early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer patients.
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